Sandia Labs to develop nation's fastest supercomputer

Sandia National Laboratories plans to build the fastest supercomputer in the US and will offer details on the project at a news conference later today.

Operated for the National Nuclear Security Administration, which is part of the U.S. Department of Energy, the Albuquerque, N.M., laboratory conducts research in four areas: nuclear weapons; nonproliferation and materials control of weapons of mass destruction; energy; and critical infrastructure and new threats to national security.

Sandia officials expect the upcoming Red Storm supercomputer to deliver 100 trillion operations per second. According to Neal Singer, a Sandia spokesman, in its original configuration Red Storm will still lag behind the Earth Simulator supercomputer developed by NEC Corp., which went into operation earlier this year.

But, Singer said, "this is not a dead-end machine. It can be considerably upgraded" and made faster, depending on funding and scientific requirements.

Seattle-based Cray Inc. announced this summer that it had begun negotiations to deliver the supercomputer to Sandia, and The Wall Street Journal reported today that Cray plans to develop Red Storm around the Opeteron line of microprocessors (download PDF) from Advanced Micro Devices Inc. in Sunnyvale, Calif.

Chips manufactured by Intel Corp. that use the same silicon engines found in servers and PCs have until now been the chip of choice for supercomputer clusters.

This has commoditized the supercomputer industry to the stage that even Dell Computer Corp. has decided to make a foray into the market.

According to the Journal, the Cray/AMD Red Storm machine will be a move away from commoditization, with the Cray developing special technology to connect the thousands of processors in the supercomputer.

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